District 51 still accredited, but must improve, state says
School District 51’s annual “report card” score from the state improved this year but still fell short of meeting full accreditation expectations.
For the fourth consecutive year, the district was “accredited with improvement” this year in the Colorado Department of Education’s annual rating system called district performance frameworks. The frameworks, introduced in 2010, rate Colorado school districts based on data from Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests, plus ACT scores, graduation rates and dropout rates.
Accredited with improvement means a district is accredited but has to write and follow an improvement plan to meet all state goals for TCAP performance and growth, ACT scores, and graduation and dropout rates. The state sets goals for TCAP based on state averages and asks districts to perform better than that average. CDE expects districts to have an average ACT composite score of 20 to meet accreditation standards and expects a dropout rate of 3.6 percent or less and a graduation rate of at least 80 percent.
Different measures are weighted more heavily than others when the state churns out a district’s performance frameworks score. How well district students grow their TCAP scores each year accounts for 35 percent of the framework score, as does a combination of ACT scores, dropout and graduation rates. Fifteen percent of a frameworks score comes from TCAP proficiency rates.
Another 15 percent comes from how well students in subgroups, such as minorities or students who get free or reduced-price school lunches, are improving their scores compared to other students statewide who have a similar TCAP score history.
District 51 earned enough points in meeting or approaching the state’s goals to earn a performance frameworks grade of 62.9 percent this year, based on spring 2013 data. That’s up from 62.3 percent last year but below the accreditation without an improvement plan benchmark of 64 percent.
High school students in District 51 improved in writing growth and math performance this year and middle school students improved in TCAP reading growth for subgroups, which helped bring up the district’s overall score. That improvement was countered slightly by back-tracking year-over-year in middle school TCAP reading performance and elementary school reading growth for subgroups.
District 51 Executive Director of Academic Achievement in secondary-level schools Mary Jones said district high schoolers met state math standards even though only a third of District 51 high school students scored proficient on TCAP math tests, because that proficiency rate is still above the state average.
“The state is also not performing at a very high level at high school. It’s not good enough,” she said.
Improvements in scores among all students and some subgroups, though, are something Jones would like to celebrate.
“This is a great area for us,” she said, referring to the district’s 72.6 percent grade for TCAP growth. “It means our kids are growing.”
District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen said the district was close to the state’s graduation goal of 80 percent and that all four of the district’s larger high school met or exceeded that goal. But students from other programs and alternative schools brought the rate down. Larsen added ACT scores are improving among students in higher-level programming like Advanced Placement classes, but others, including some that may be required to take ACT despite having no plans to attend college, are going the opposite direction.
“Our high-end students continue to knock the socks off ACT but we know our lower-end students aren’t,” he said.